Pernil (Roast Pork) and Pasteles: 2 Dominican Christmas Recipes | Chefs At Home

Amanda M. Rye

Miguel Trinidad, Chef and Owner of 99th Floor in New York, NY, shows us how to make traditional Dominican holiday recipes, Pernil and Pasteles!

Video Transcript

MIGUEL TRINIDAD: My absolute favorite is lambí. My mouth is watering just thinking about this because it’s my absolute favorite dish.

Hi, my name’s Miguel Trinidad. And I am the executive chef and owner of 99th Floor. I will be making a couple of Dominican dishes today, the first one being pernil. I’m going to be using some of the meat from that in a second holiday dish called pasteles, very similar to tamales. Let’s get started.


Pernil goes with every family event that is of any significance in our culture. Might have a turkey at Thanksgiving, we’ll have a turkey and some pernil. At Christmas, we’ll have some pernil. We’re going to start off with a pork leg, which is about five to six pounds. And what I want to do with that is just prick it. That’s going to allow the fat to release, brown the skin, and get that skin nice and crusty. It’s also going to allow for the paste that we’re going to make to penetrate and marinate the meat.

If you have a mortar and pestle, this will work fine. But if you don’t, simple little food processor will work just as great. A 1/4 cup of vinegar, a 1/4 cup of olive oil, 15 garlic cloves, and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of Dominican oregano. Now, Dominican oregano is different from regular oregano. We grind it up and it’s finer. So it gives off a nuttier flavor to the meat once we marinate it.

Now what I’m looking to get here is a nice, loose paste. You want the pace to be easily spreadable. If it’s a little too thick, don’t worry about it. That’s fine.

So this is what I’m looking for. I want to make sure that I can get inside all those little pockets, all those little slits, rub it all across the skin. Make sure you get both sides. Make sure all of that paste really gets incorporated into that pork leg. You don’t want to lose any flavor. And I like to let it marinate for at least 72 hours. This dish takes some time, but it’s well worth it.

You have this beautiful, roasted pork leg. The paste has been rubbed all over that pork leg, has permeated through the meat. If you guys could smell this, I’m telling you, you’d be licking your fingers right now. The pork itself is so tender. It just breaks apart. You can pull it off– look at that. It’s beautiful. Mm, juicy, delicious, you can really taste that meat and you can taste the oregano permeating throughout the meat. And you can taste that acid that really just makes it pop. I’m going to let this cool for a bit. And then I’m going to shred some of it. I’m going to use that in our next recipe, which is our pasteles.

In my house, this is something that, you know, has been purchased throughout the years from one of our neighbors who is known for making pastel. There’s always somebody who makes it better than anybody else in the neighborhood. So she would take the roast pork, skin and all, and put that into the pastel.

You know, you don’t have to put a whole lot in there. Because you don’t want to take away the flavor from those root vegetables. This is just like a nice little treat inside that pocket. It’s like finding a little gift inside your pastel.

You want to take to green plantains. You can find this at your local Latin grocer. Yautia, which is also known as [? blanca. ?] And you want to use some kabocha squash.

The plantains must be green. If you get the yellow ones, it’s going to be sweet. And it’s not going to hold as tight.

You want to take these. And you just want to grate them. You know, this is where you put that elbow grease in, the way grandma used to do it, the way your aunties and your tias and your tios will do it back in the Dominican Republic.

After you grate all the vegetables, you’re going to mix them up really nicely, get your hands dirty, mix it up, make sure that it’s well mixed. You want to add some garlic powder, some Spanish paprika, onion powder, salt, oregano, and some pepper, tablespoon of annatto oil. It’s going to get to the slight nuttiness, quintessential to Dominican pasteles. Get all of that and just mix it up really nice. We want to make sure that the seasoning gets through everything. And this is your masa for the pasteles.

You can absolutely do your own version of this. You can add whatever spices you want to it. Some oyster mushrooms shredded in this really works nicely with a vegetarian pastel. It’s endless possibilities that you can do with this.

So traditionally, this is done with banana leaf. The pastel is placed in the banana leaf. Then we wrap it with parchment paper. If you cannot find banana leaf, which happens to be the case for me this time around, you can still do it in the parchment paper and it will come out just as fine.

Then you want to make sure that it’s cut about 11 by 14, 11 by 16. You want to give yourself enough room for the overlap in the folds. 4 tablespoons of the masa, place it right in the center and just pat it down. Take some of your shredded pork, put that right on top. Then grab some more of that masa, about another 2 tablespoons, just to cover it up. If it doesn’t look pretty, don’t worry about it. The pastel is really going to grab its shape in the fold. You want to do a tri-fold. You want to flip over once, OK, flip over the other side. And then your flaps, you want to make sure that they come over.

We’re going to grab some butcher’s twine. And you want to slip it under, give yourself enough slack on both sides, all right, slip it under, crossover, and pull apart so you’re forming a T with the fold. You flip that over, tie it again, just so you can have that butcher’s twine right in the center and it’s not sliding back and forth. You want to make sure that this is a nice, little tight bundle. The reason you want it tight is because no water gets into the pastel when you’re boiling them and none of the filling pops out and that’s your pastel, OK? Clip off the ends and you’re good to go.

This is something that throughout the years friends, family, neighbors that have entered our home around this time and have experienced these aromas, they’ve all had the same reaction. It’s like, what is that? It smells great. Like you can smell the oregano perfuming the whole apartment right now. And it is such a wonderful warming memory.

It is the holidays. You know, we are in a COVID state. So it’s very hard for the family to get together, especially Latino families. You know, we’re huge. There’s a massive amount of us. And in order to keep everybody safe, you know, everybody’s keeping their distance. I miss the family. You know, I miss that nostalgia. I miss all of us getting together and eating this food or even cooking it together. It’s making me think of my family and how much I miss them.

I have some water going here, just drop them in. Set your timer for one hour, OK? One hour is exactly the amount of time that you need for these to be perfect.

If you’ve ever been to a Dominican restaurant in New York City or here in the States, like you pretty much have the same 40 or so dishes. And they’re absolutely delicious and wonderful. But there’s a whole other level of Dominican regional cuisine that you will not see here in the States very often. Number one, my absolute favorite is lambí. Lambí is conch.

With the Spanish influence in the Dominican Republic, you know, there’s two different ways of making it. My mother makes it in a red sauce. Another way she makes it is grinding up that meat and also adding vinegar, olive oil, and some onions. Your lambí is cooked for a very long time so it’s super tender and super flavorful. I’m sorry, it’s like my mouth is watering just thinking about this. Because it’s my absolute favorite dish.

A second dish that is very u
ncommon but has roots in other places around the world is niño envuelto. That would be a belimbi here, or stuffed cabbage. My Aunt [? Sageetha, ?] this was a dish she made for our birthdays or on special occasions. The whole family got together just to have this ground meat, seasoned rice wrapped in cabbage, and then topped with a tomato-based sauce with criollo seasonings and baked until it’s nice and tender and soft, another one. My mouth watering just thinking about it. I miss my Aunt [? Sageetha. ?] Wherever you are, I love you.

The pastel has been boiling for an hour. This is what pasteles in our house look like, smells like. Let’s cut into that and see what it’s like.


A pinch of salt, a little Tabasco, you can finish it off anyway if you like. The texture on these pasteles are soft. It has a little bit of the give when you bite into it. But yet, it just melts in your mouth afterwards. You can really taste the pork. You can taste the oregano. You can taste all the seasoning that’s in that masa. It’s Christmas. It’s the holidays. Whenever you pop open a pastel, it’s like opening up a little gift.

So today I took you through two quintessential Dominican recipes that you’ll find in the holidays. Please, comment below. If you like what you saw, follow us on the YouTube channel. And thank you so much for watching “Chefs at Home.” Hope to see you soon.

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